Fact-checking Republicans' 18-page impeachment defense memo.
House Republicans on Tuesday issued an 18-page memorandum attempting to defend Donald Trump and build a case against impeachment as the first public hearings in the inquiry draw near.
The document, first obtained by CNN, is riddled with misleading talking points and outright falsehoods.
There are gaping holes in the Republican members' defense, which focuses on select events and ignores heaps of other evidence that have been uncovered in a series of closed-door depositions with witnesses. Transcripts of those depositions have since been released publicly.
Below are the most outlandish claims in the GOP memo.
1. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) "fabricated evidence" and leaked "cherry-picked information"
Republicans claim in the second paragraph of the memo that Schiff made up evidence and leaked "cherry-picked information" to hurt Trump.
Neither of these things are true.
The first claim appears to be a reference to Trump's argument that Schiff inaccurately paraphrased the transcript of Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during a hearing in September. Republicans went so far as to try and censure Schiff for what they claimed was a false reading of that partial transcript.
The Republican attempt to censure Schiff ultimately failed.
As to the accusation of "cherry-picked information," the House Intelligence Committee has over the past two weeks been releasing full transcripts of the closed-door interviews it has held so far. None of the witnesses have refuted the accuracy of the transcripts, which have been released in batches as they are reviewed to ensure no classified information is made public.
It should be noted that when House Republicans conducted their years-long Benghazi investigation, they held similar closed-door depositions.
2. There are four pieces of evidence "fatal" to the impeachment effort
Republicans have finally come up with an argument on the substance of the impeachment inquiry. The only problem is, it doesn't hold up.
In the memo, Republicans focus on Trump's July 25 call with Zelensky. During that call, Trump asked for a favor — an investigation into his 2020 rival Joe Biden and a long-debunked conspiracy about the Democratic National Committee servers — in exchange for what several officials have since said was crucial aid funding to Ukraine.
Republicans, however, say the rough transcript of the call showed "no conditionality or evidence of pressure," that the Ukrainian government didn't know about the hold on aid, that Zelensky said he felt no pressure, and that Ukraine ultimately got the aid without having to announce investigations into Trump's rivals.
However, the call is not the only evidence that exists.
Multiple witnesses have now testified that Trump was trying to extort Ukraine by withholding the $400 million in security aid in order to force the investigations. Witnesses have also testified that Ukrainian officials knew of and were concerned about the aid freeze long before reports on that hold surfaced, and that it took a Herculean effort from U.S. government officials to finally get the aid released before it was too late.
The New York Times also reported that Ukraine was set to announce the investigations when "luck" struck, and the Trump administration suddenly released the aid.
3. It was OK for Trump to withhold the aid because he has been 'clear' that Europe should pay for its own regional defense
In the memo, Republicans argue that Trump has been consistent about his belief that "U.S. taxpayer-funded foreign assistance should be spent wisely and cautiously" and that he's been "critical of sending U.S. taxpayer dollars to foreign countries."
This point seems to be suggesting that because Trump holds this belief, it was OK for him to withhold military aid to Ukraine.
However, Congress had appropriated that military aid. Trump cannot unilaterally decide to upend those decisions.
The Office of Management and Budget, which is currently being run by acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, a key figure in the growing Ukraine scandal, has said the administration did nothing wrong in withholding the aid.
"As has been well documented, we fully complied with the law and decades of precedent with respect to these funds. Congress is notified if the Administration intends to rescind, defer, reprogram, or transfer funding, but in this case none of those things occurred and the funding was obligated as planned," a spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal last week.
The Government Accountability Office is currently conducting a review to determine whether Trump's decision to withhold the aid violated appropriations law.
"Under the law, which was passed in 1974 ... the President can propose to Congress to rescind the money. The only way that would hold is if Congress says, yes, we agree. And Congress has 45 days to respond," GAO Comptroller General Gene Dodaro told lawmakers earlier this month.
4. You can't impeach Trump because no one knows what is in Trump's mind
Republicans specifically argue in the 18-page memo that Trump can't be impeached because members of Congress "cannot properly assess President Trump's mindset during his July 25 phone conversation with President Zelensky."
Again, Republicans are only focused on the July 25 phone call, rather than the other evidence that's been provided by witnesses in the impeachment probe that show the concerted attempt to withhold security aid to Ukraine in order to force the investigations.
Multiple officials have testified that there was a clear attempt by Trump and his associates, including his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to pressure Ukraine to dig up dirt on Biden and the DNC, and a clear effort to withhold aid to secure that information.
While it may be impossible to read Trump's mind, his actions and those of his associates, outside of that call, are clear cut and corroborated by several witnesses.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.